We've come to a point in our nation where the killing, oppression, humiliation, demonization and stereotyping of people of color especially African American brothers and sisters has become a norm in America. This trend should shake our very being and our hearts to the core. If our hearts don't break and we aren't saddened by the loss of numerous African American brothers and sisters to police brutality we need to check our hearts. This post is to push us all to start reaching out to our African American brothers and sisters in solidarity and unity and work hard to establish justice for those who are silenced by our justice system who has failed innocent victims of police brutality and violence.
Before beginning to list out the action items the Muslim American community can take, let's discuss why it's important. First, justice is at the very core of Islam. In the Quran God says: "God commands justice and fair dealing..." (Quran 16:90) and "O you who believe, be upright for God, and (be) bearers of witness with justice!..." (Quran 5:8) and lastly "O you who believe! Stand out firmly for justice, as witnesses to Allah, even if it be against yourselves, your parents, and your relatives, or whether it is against the rich or the poor..." (Quran 4:135).
Secondly, we cannot demand justice for Muslims only nor can we call for justice to be established in Syria, Burma, Afghanistan, Iraq, Palestine and other countries when injustice is happening in our own homes and in our own backyards. If we feel disheartened and powerless to help victims of injustice abroad then we must do our part by establishing justice here in the United States---and that starts with supporting the #BlackLivesMatter movement. In our own history, the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) freed and empowered a black slave to become one of the greatest leaders in Islamic history. His name was Bilal (may God be pleased with him) and he rose to the rank of a caller to prayer (muadhin) and had the honor of calling the Muslims to prayer. Thus, the first person to start a #BlackLivesMatter movement was the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) who fought against racial, social, and economic inequality and taught that equality is a core part of Islam. For society to make delineations based on the color of skin, wealth, ethnicity is against the teachings of God, thus Muslims must be on the forefront of establishing justice for victims of injustice.
Last, is that the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) reminded us that to build a community we must eradicate racial and ethnic superiority:
"O people! Your God is one and your forefather (Adam) is one. An Arab is not better than a non-Arab and a non-Arab is not better than an Arab, and a white person is not better than a black person and a black person is not better than a white person except in piety." (Narrated in Musnad Ahmad, #22978)
Now let's get to the action items....
1) Partner with Local African American Churches
Partner with local African American churches in your local community and partner with them to discuss ways to address racism and other social justice issues that your masjid can work on together.
2) Start Addressing Racism in Your Masjid
We cannot establish justice for others when we haven't addressed racism in our own masjids and in our own communities. We must have open and frank discussions to start not only addressing racism, but creating action-oriented attempts to remove racism from the hearts of Muslims.
3) Join Rallies with African American Organizations and Communities
Show up to rallies and demonstrations that support #BlackLivesMatter and are anti-racism demonstrations. Showing up in numbers can do a lot in supporting our African American brothers and sisters.
4) Engage with Local Law Enforcement with #BlackLivesMatter Leaders
Work with your local #BlackLivesMatter partners and leaders to engage with law enforcement to ensure your local police department gets adequate cultural sensitivity training, mental health training, and additional anti-racism training for all police officers. Follow up and demand these trainings take place.
Also, ask police departments how they investigate, reprimand, and penalize police officers who do break the law, commit brutality, violence or act in a racist manner. Review their investigation and penalization process and provide suggestions and resources. Ensure police departments have measures in place where the penalization of police officers who do break the rules and the law think twice about doing so.
5) Contact and Work with Your Local Elected Officials with #BlackLivesMatter Leaders
To add additional pressure for change work with your local elected officials---mayors, congressmen/women, DOJ, DHS, etc. to provide a groundswell and a movement to provide additional training to all law enforcement officials. Provide policy suggestions and resources for them to actually act upon and use.
6) Partner with Local Police Watchdog & Civil Rights Organizations
Work with the #BlackLivesMatter movement leaders to partner with local police watchdog organizations and civil rights organizations to develop strategies to ensure there are legal measures available to apply pressure when needed when police departments are not cooperative in investigations
7) Check out MuslimARC's #BlackLivesMatter Toolkit
MuslimARC is a great organization that addresses racism not only in the Muslim American community, but also has developed an amazing toolkit to teach Muslim Americans how to strategically work with the #BlackLivesMatter Movement.
Check it out here.
Also, check out Margari Hill's Huffington Post article to understand more about the overlap of Islamophobia and the #BlackLivesMatter movement.
8) Study the Lives of Great African American Leaders
A great way to support the #BlackLivesMatter movement is to study some of the great African American leaders who contributed so much to American society and the world with their work. A great resource is Great Black Heroes.
We must learn from the great African American leaders and sit with those of those who were a part of the 1960's Civil Rights movement and learn from their experiences on how to effectively mobilize, organize and counter bigotry, racism and hate.